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Gaming Evolution
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Gaming Evolution
Gaming Evolution
Published By: 2K Games
Developed By: 2K Czech/Massive Bear Studios
Genre: Third-Person Shooter/Action
Players: 1
Rated: M (Mature)
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Screenshots: Link
Amazon: Buy Now!
Written By: Matthew Prunty

September 13, 2010 - The gangster setting and way of life has been prevalent in movies ever since the days of George Méliès and the release of his 1902 short film Bluebeard. Throughout the decades, the fascination with individuals rising to power, seizing the things they wanted against all authority, and the ultimate fall of said individual has always had a soft and cozy place within the hearts of Americans. While the era of the gangster was revitalized through shows like The Sopranos (HBO) and moves like Scarface with Al Pacino and The Godfather, it was the foundation put into place by individuals like Edward G. Robinson and James Francis Cagney, Jr. (to name a few) during the 1920s and so on that defined the genre that we so enjoy to this day. And it’s this foundation that lead to the creation of the Mafia series; especially that of Mafia II.

Mafia II’s story is all about the rise of a World War II veteran Vito Scarletta; the son of Sicilian immigrants and the choices that he ultimately makes that define his life, his lifestyle and the world around him. While the gameplay within Mafia II takes place prominently during the 1940s and early 50s, you can tell the roots took place a decade before, around the time of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and The Noble Experiment era. Yea, yea some will say that this is a video game and not a real life documentary, however if you paid attention to your surroundings early on within Mafia II it is clear as day that the country was still in recovery from the most horrendous events to rock the country during that time. It actually wasn’t until the game hits the 1950s that we see a change in the times and an uplifting of the country’s spirit within the residents of Empire Bay.

Mafia II opens up to Vito Scarletta’s family moving to America in hopes of a better life than when they were in Sicily. Vito grew up with a local kid name Joe Barbaro, and frequently got into some form of trouble. While trying to rob a jewelry store, Vito was caught and had the choice of either going to jail or enlisting in the army. After a stint on the battlefield during World War II, Vito came home for a temporary leave from the War due to an injury. Back home, Vito reunites with his childhood friend Joe before meeting his mother and sister Francesca. The two catch up on old times over a few drinks before Joe makes a call to keep Vito from going back to the battlegrounds of World War II. Going home to his family, Vito has dinner with his mother and sister before calling it a night. In the morning, Vito’s mom convinces him to go meet the guy in charge of the ports for a job so he can earn a living. On the way out, some guy is hassling Francesca about money before Vito interferes and corrects the situation. It is this moment, and the revelation that Vito & Francesca’s father owes money to a feared loan-shark, that acts as the catalyst for Vito’s rise to power and the beginning of the story of Mafia 2.

When you first enter the world of Empire Bay (New York City), you immediately feel as though you are in a world similar to that of Grand Theft Auto; however, all things are not what they seem. While Mafia II is indeed a “sandbox world”, the game is grounded within the telling of the story of Vito Scarletta and his rise through the ranks of some of the biggest crime families in Empire Bay. You do have the option to steal cars, hold shootouts with the police, rob various shops throughout the city, etc., however none of it really impacts the story, which some may not like all too well. A lot of gamers are not into doing 40-50 or more missions; which can get repetitive, before you can actually complete the game. Whereas with Mafia II, you have 14 chapters of action, some of which span several missions and are all unique in their own right. This approach to story-telling mirrors the movies that made Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney the famous actors of their generations.

Like mentioned before, the connection between Mafia II and the movies of 1920s, 30s, etc. was born out of the problems of the 1920s. During that time, a lot of the movies that were released depicted the lifestyle of a gangster; a story of rags to riches, which was a stark contrast to the lifestyles majority of Americans were living. The movies that were being made; majority by Warner Bros., had truth and resonated with the people of that time due to actors and writers living within the element from which they drew inspiration. In the movies and in real life, gangsters (Caporegime in world of the Mafia) took rise through illegally producing alcohol, which was furnished to speakeasies (clubs and bars) in the United States. During this time, the public perception of the gangster was more of a people person and a helper.

These individuals took what they wanted, when they wanted and didn’t answer to any authority that was not from within their own “family”. The views on violence during this time were very liberal; thus almost anything was captured on screen. However, not to glorify the life of a gangster, Hollywood movies will showcase a great fall for the individual, which often enough lead to his/her death. This was done as a measure to ensure children seeing these films with their parents wouldn’t see a life of crime as appealing. Prime examples of this would be Rico (Edward G. Robinson) being gun down at the end of Little Caesar and Tom Powers (James Cagney) dying in the rainy streets after being involved in a shootout. This formula and the history for of the United States during the early 20th century helped fuel all forms of entertainment to this very day and Mafia II is a prime example of that. Our main character Vito Scarletta must face judgment day for all his actions throughout the experience portrayed within the game. The man came from nothing, became something, and lost it all before he could even realize what’s going on.

James Cagney - The Roaring Twenties(1939)

Due to The Noble Experiment (Prohibition), brought upon America by the Volstead Act, the selling and consuming of alcohol was made illegal, which forcefully put a lot of stores, clubs and bars out of business during the time period of 1920 to 1933. It is during this time that the gangster; a Caporegime in the world of the Mafia took rise as they were illegally producing alcohol, which fueled clubs and bars in America, keeping life for many someone what normal to what they were use to. This is also the time where the public perception of a gangster was more of a people person and a helper.

Throughout the 14 chapters of Mafia II, the one constant which helps drives the story is Vito’s obsession with not ending up like his father and providing a bountiful life for himself and his family. However, not to end up like the others involved with the work he’s doing, he always seems to weigh the pros and cons of a job he has to do; despite to reassurance of his best bud Joe Barbaro or anyone else. This slight hesitation allows you connect with Vito and better understand his decisions; though you may not agree with his actions. His decisions, no matter how big or small, help push the story forward. There’s a mission where you have to distribute cigarette cartons to people across the city, only to be confronted by a group of punks looking for nothing but to start trouble. This forces the hands of Vito and Joe. There is also a mission where you must befriend someone who has helped you through your downtime, which sets up the events for the ending of the game. Everything that Vito and Joe involve themselves in has repercussions of some form within the game.

The combat system within Mafia II is very robust, offering up different ways to get even with the opposition. Whenever in a shootout, you are able to duck behind cover while also delivering your own dose of destruction through a myriad of weaponry taken right from the time period. However, with destructible cover implemented into Mafia II, crouching behind crates or a wall isn’t a good thing for long as weapons will eventually pierce the cover, leaving you open to gunfire and potential death. If you ever run out of bullets or simply enjoy hand-to-hand combat, Vito can hold his own through the use of light and heavy punches, and a dodging and finisher mechanic. Most of the times you will want to stick with quick punches, instead of trying to deliver a haymaker as it leaves you open for the one-two punch from your opponent. If you hold the X button, you are able to dodge any attacks thrown at you, giving you the opportunity to strategically strike. The majority of missions Vito is involved in will require some sort of firepower, though there are a handful of situations where you will have correct someone via fisticuffs.

For the scale incorporated in Mafia II, 2K Czech did a fantastic job bringing Empire City and its people to life. Whether traversing the streets during a snowing winter, the confines of a prison or the action filled streets of the roaring 1950s, the visual presentation of Mafia II is one of detail and realism. As the times change throughout the game, the environment changes with it. Though I personally wasn’t able to play all three versions of Mafia II, there’s a claim going around that the Xbox 360 and PC versions of this title actually benefited from a small graphical boost; the latter of which looks the best depending on your computer setup. You see the evolution of the automobile and people’s choice in clothing. The music changes along with the times as you will hear music from artists like Chuck Berry, The Everly Brothers, Dean Martin, Little Richard, Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley just to name a few. The dialog is spot on with the times, though not as much slang is used as was actually common during those times.

Mafia II is chock full of action from beginning to end and can easily be completed in 8 to 10 hours. If you are trying to acquire all the trophies/achievements within the game, you can easily spend an additional 8-10 hours as there are wanted posters, playboy magazine photos and various requirements that will take time and dedication to complete. While the game is exactly the same for the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC platforms, the PS3 version benefitted from an exclusive dlc pack that was downloadable via a voucher code. Known as ‘The Betrayal of Jimmy’, this piece of dlc provides an additional 25 missions to Mafia II, which diversifies the experience even more outside of the single-player campaign missions. Some believe that this dlc pack was given to the PS3 version of the game to balance the experience due to the visual limitations placed on the game; though no one from 2K Games has confirmed this. With no multiplayer to speak of in Mafia II, some may find the total package presented by 2K Games to be a little lacking.

Mafia II is indeed a wonderful product of history and creativity on the part of 2K Czech and 2K Games. The game provides a riveting narrative that will keep you entertained from beginning to end. Though there are a few issues with this title as no game is perfect, the overall experience and 2K Games’ dedication to releasing dlc content to expand the universe within Mafia II will keep players immersed in this world of deceit, tragedy, redemption as they try to achieve the “American Dream”.


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